Sonic the Hedgehog movie scores retro 16-bit music video with Wiz Khalifa

Here's our ongoing guide for the upcoming movie about the beloved Sega video game character.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
4 min read

Paramount Pictures' Sonic the Hedgehog movie tells the tale of beloved Sega video game character Sonic (Ben Schwartz) as he navigates life on Earth with his new human best friend Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) in tow.

Sonic and Tom join forces to try to stop the villainous Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who wants to capture Sonic, harness the speedy hedgehog's immense powers and use them for world domination.

On Jan. 23, a new music video for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released. The song "Speed Me Up," features rappers Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Yachty and Sueco the Child. In the music video, the rappers are animated in a 16-bit video game character style and sucked into a Sonic video game.

The movie's first trailer sparked criticism from fans unsettled by Sonic's redesign for the live-action film. The public outcry regarding the CGI was so intense that the movie's release date was pushed back from to February 2020.

In November 2019, a new trailer posted by Paramount Pictures revealed the character's redesign after fans initially rejected the first trailer that showed off Sonic's first look. The new trailer shows Sonic with not-as-human teeth and bigger eyes. The biggest fan outcry -- his sculpted calves -- are gone as well. 

The redesign may have been much cheaper than the rumored $35 million price tag. A source close to the production now estimates that character redesign cost Paramount less than $5 million, IndieWire reported in 2019.


The first incarnation of Sonic in the trailer for the upcoming movie, as of May 2019. 

Video screenshot by CNET

The redesigned Sonic in the trailer for the upcoming movie, as of November 2019.

Video screenshot by CNET

Here's what we know about the film so far.  

Who is making it?

The upcoming movie is directed by Jeff Fowler and marks his feature debut. Fowler was nominated for an Oscar in 2005 for his animated short Gopher Broke. Sonic the Hedgehog is produced by Deadpool director Tim Miller

Artist Tyson Hesse helped with the redesign and is also the talent behind the amazing Sonic Mania Adventures shorts. "Honored to have been brought in to lead the design on the new Movie Sonic," Hesse tweeted. "Working with Jeff and the modelers, riggers, texture/fur artists and animators in LA, London, and Vancouver was a thrill I'll never forget."  

Paramount Pictures is distributing the movie.


Jim Carrey plays villain Dr. Robotnik in the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie.

Video screenshot by CNET

The plot

When Sonic speeds past lawman Wachowski at 760 mph, the hedgehog ends up creating an energy surge that knocks out power in the Pacific Northwest. This prompts unamused government officials to call in help from Robotnik. Robotnik becomes obsessed with tracking Sonic down and using his speedy powers for world domination.

On Jan. 23, a new music video for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released. The song is called "Speed Me Up," and we've got Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Yachty, and Sueco the Child to thank for it, each of those artists animated in a 16-bit style for music video.

Fan reactions to the initial CGI design

When Paramount Pictures revealed a motion poster for the new film in December 2018, fans were upset that the classic Sega video game character Sonic the Hedgehog didn't look exactly like they remembered him. 

In the poster, instead of his usual cartoony design, Sonic's arms and muscular legs appear almost human. He's also covered in blue fur and wears realistic-looking sneakers.

Miller explained that the changes were made to help the character feel like he belongs in a live-action setting. "He's not going to feel like a Pixar character would because I don't think that's the right aesthetic to make it feel like part of our world," Miller said in December 2018

When the movie's first trailer dropped in May 2019, fans were even more shocked by Sonic's realistic features, which included humanlike teeth.

Even Carrey commented on the CGI controversy.

"I don't know quite how I feel about the audience being in on the creation of it," Carrey said at the Television Critics Association presentation on Aug. 2, 2019. "We'll see what that entails because sometimes you find that the collective consciousness decides it wants something and then when it gets it ... 'I just wanted it, I didn't care about it. I just jumped on the bandwagon.' Ownership of anything is going out the window for all of us."

Fowler responded to the fan outrage about the new design with a tweet in May 2019. "Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear... you aren't happy with the design & you want changes. It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount and Sega are fully committed to making this character the best he can be."

In May 2019, fan and animator Artur Baranov released his own trailer with a different version of Sonic. He replaced the human-legged movie design with a version inspired by the cartoon television show Sonic from the '90s. 

This is closer to how the fictional hedgehog appears in the Sega video games.

When does it come out?

Fowler announced in 2019 that the Sonic the Hedgehog movie release date would be pushed from November to Feb. 14, 2020, to give the filmmakers more time to rework Sonic. 

Meet the cast 

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See all photos

This piece was originally published June 1, 2019, and is updated as news rolls in.